Davis causing Rangers to take notice
Minor Leaguer excels, pushing for big league roster spot
OKLAHOMA CITY -- As things stood on Friday, the Rangers' plan was to stick Hank Blalock at first base when he comes off the disabled list. Oklahoma RedHawks first baseman Chris Davis could have the Rangers rethinking those plans.
Davis has been at Triple-A Oklahoma for less than a month and, already, he's running out of things to prove.
"For Chris, there's going to be a learning curve in the big leagues, whether that's tomorrow or next month," Rangers Minor League hitting coordinator Mike Boulanger said. "He's as ready as a player can be without having faced Major League pitching."
Pretty high praise for a player in just his second full professional season. At this point last season, Davis was at Class A Bakersfield in the Texas system. But what Davis has done in his brief Minor League career has him on the fast track to the big leagues.
With a 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame, Davis already has a Major League body and he's putting up the numbers to match. A left-handed slugger, Davis hits for average as well as power. The only question is -- as with Blalock -- can he play first base? With a swing like his, the Rangers may soon find out.
"He's a guy with all the tools to play in the big leagues," Oklahoma hitting coach Hector Ortiz said. "He's always in position to hit and he has a nice, short, smooth swing."
Davis joined the RedHawks on May 25 following his promotion from Double-A Frisco, and hit just .216 with one home run his first 11 games. But that was all the time he needed to adjust to Triple-A pitching. In his seven games since, Davis is hitting .480 with three home runs.
In 18 games for Oklahoma he is batting .323 with a .997 on-base plus slugging percentage to go along with his four home runs.
"When he first got here, he struggled," Oklahoma manager Bobby Jones said. "He was fighting himself, but he's getting it together. He's got some holes in his swing and he knows it, plus the pitching is better here, but he's adjusted to it."
Since the Rangers drafted him in the fifth round in 2006 out of Navarro College, Davis has proven to be an all-around hitter at all levels.
At Class A Spokane in 2006, Davis was Texas' Minor League Player of the Month in July when he hit .343 with 10 home runs. From mid-July to early August, he strung together a 19-game hitting streak.
Last year, between 99 games at Bakersfield and 30 at Frisco, Davis hit .297. His combined 36 home runs and 118 RBIs were the most among Minor Leaguers under the age of 27. He also tied a California League record with a 35-game hitting streak with Bakersfield.
Just 21 years old at the time, Davis was ranked the second-best prospect in the Texas system by Baseball America and he received the Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year award from the Rangers.
His reward this season was an invite to Spring Training with the Rangers where he hit two home runs in 11 at-bats.
"It was good for me to meet those guys," Davis said. "The Texas Rangers are kind of known for developing true gentlemen of the game, so it was just a great experience to play alongside them for a little while."
Three months later, Davis is trying to prove he deserves a spot on Texas' 25-man roster.
Since joining Oklahoma, Davis has noticed that pitchers at the Triple-A level utilize their off-speed pitches more often to keep hitters off balance and force hitters to get themselves out. He's also discovered that left-handers are harder to hit at the upper levels.
With Bakersfield last year, he hit .351 against left-handers and .281 against right-handers. With Oklahoma, he's hitting .235 against lefties and .356 against righties. But his coaches are confident he'll adjust to left-handed pitching.
In four plate appearances against lefties on Tuesday night, Davis went 1-for-3 with a home run and three times he worked full counts, earning a walk in his last at-bat.
"Once he sees something wrong in his swing, he can fix it," Boulanger said. "Everybody wants to be able to do that, but not everybody can. He can."
The only real concern with Davis is how well he can field his position at first. Since playing first base in high school, he's moved between third base and the outfield until this season.
A right-handed fielder, Davis is at a disadvantage at first base and he already has two errors in 18 games with Oklahoma. But if he brings the same mentality to the field that he brings to the plate, he'll quiet those concerns, too.
"I don't want to be known as a power hitter who strikes out a lot. I don't want to be seen as a one-dimensional hitter," Davis said. "I want to be a great all-around hitter. A guy who can swing the bat well and hit for power and average."
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.